Athletes who get listed in the Hall of Fame are recognised for their achievements in the sport and their impact on the game. This is true for the black baseball players in this prestigious category.
During the early years of the sport, black African American baseball players weren’t allowed to play in the sport. However, things changed in 1947 when Jackie Robinson represented the Brooklyn Dodgers. Many years later, baseball has acknowledged the role he and many others played and inducted them into the Hall of Fame.
We review some of the players in the Hall of Fame including Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, Larry Doby and Willard Brown. Learn more about them below.
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1. Jackie Robinson
In 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first black baseball player to join a Major League Baseball (MLB) team. He played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and broke the colour barrier. He inspired millions in the United States and was a high-impact player for Brooklyn.
Jackie was a dominant baseman. He registered 1,518 hits, 137 home runs, 947 scored runs and 197 stolen bases. He scooped a couple of awards:
- Rookie of the Year (1947)
- 6-time All-Star (1949-1954)
- National League MVP (1949)
Jackie retired in 1956 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962.
2. Larry Doby
After Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby was the second black baseball player to feature in MLB. He started out in Newark Eagles in 1942 and played for the team until 1947 when he signed for the Cleveland Indians.
- In 1948 he was the first African American baseball player to hit a home run in a World Series.
- 1952 he became the first African American to lead the league in home runs.
By the end of his career, Dobby made it into the All-Star team seven times and was a World Series Champion with the Cleveland Indians in 1948.
Before his retirement in 1979, Lary Doby managed the Chicago White Sox 1978 and became the second black manager to work in the league after Frank Robinson. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.
3. Hank Thompson
Hank Thompson played in the third baseman position. He started in Kansas City Monarchs, where he played between 1943 and 1948. In 1949, he moved to the New York Giants and was the first black player to sign.
During his time here, he made some impressive performances. He was the first black player to hit two inside-the-park home runs in a game, His best season came in 1953 when he made 24 home runs, batted 302 and made 74 runs.
Thompson won the World Series in 1954 and retired two years later.
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4. Willard Brown
Willard Brown didn’t play long in the league but left an indelible mark in his single-year appearance. Debuting two days after Hank Thompson for the St. Louis Browns, he became the first African American to hit a home run in the American League. Due to endemic racism, he left the league and joined Puerto Rico, where he achieved big things, enough to warrant a place in the Hall of Fame.
5. Monte Irvin
Monte Irvin came from the Negro League to the MLB in 1949 when he joined the New York Giants. He spent six years with the team with whom he won the World Series in 1955 and was named to the MLB All-Star team in 1952. After a successful run with the team, he joined the Chicago Cubs in 1956 and retired the following year.
He had a batting average of 304, made 1 059 hits, and made 137 home runs and 51 stolen bases. Irvin was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973.
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6. Buck Leonard
Walter ‘Buck’ Leonard did not play in the MLB. He was offered the chance but thought he was past his prime and turned it down. Walter spent much of his career (1934 to 1950) playing for the Homestead Grays in the Negro League.
He had a stint at Puerto Rican team Indios de Mayagüez. After 1950, he joined Algodoneros de Torreón (1951–1953), Portsmouth Merrimack (1953) and Durango (1955). He had a batting average of .345, made 724 hits, 95 home runs and 34 stolen bases. Leonard was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972.
7. Josh Gibson
Josh Gibson is another black baseball player who did not play in the MLB. He spent his entire career in the Negro League. He was excluded from the American League and the National League despite him being considered one of the best hitters of the ball.
His home runs were thought to travel for 580 to 700 feet. Unfortunately, this cannot be proven but if true, it’s why he was highly spoken of and even earned a place in the Hall of Fame in 1972.
8. Satchel Paige
He was considered to be the best pitcher to have played the game. After more than 20 years in the Negro League, Satchel Paige got to play in the MLB. He represented the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Brown and Kansas City Athletics. In his first season, he won the World Series champion and made it to the MLB All-Star 1952 and 1953.
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9. Cool Papa Bell
From the stories about him, James Thomas Bell, also known as Cool Papa, is considered the fastest player to have ever played in the league. In fact, Satchiel Paige said that he could light a switch and make it to bed before it went dark. That’s how good he was.
Cool Papa played in some of the best teams in the Negro League – the Stars, the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawford. Cool also played in the Mexican League, where he also did well. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1974.
10. Judy Johson
William ‘Judy’ Johnson was one of the best third basemen to have played in the league. He spent his entire career in the Negro League, representing the Hilldale Club, Homestead Grays, and the Pittsburgh Crawford. He led Hilldale to three pennants and went on to the Negro World Series. Later on, he worked as a coach and scout. Judy Johnson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975.
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11. Oscar Charleston
Charleston was an all-round player, so he was considered the most talented player in the game. He proved his skills in different areas – hitting home runs, base running, and stealing. He won:
- Three Negro National League Pennants
- East West All-Star Games
- Negro National League Batting Champion
- Triple Crown
Oscar worked as a coach for several teams like:
- Philadelphia Stars
- Toledo Crawfords
- Pittsburgh Crawford
12. Pop Lloyd
John Henry Llyod, also known as Pop Lloyd, perfected picking up the ball with the glove and batting it. So good was he that he won the Lifetime batting average. He consistently batted over 300. Lloyd played in the Negro League throughout but his skills distinguished him, so he earned a spot in the Hall of Fame in 1977.
13. Rube Foster
Dubbed the ‘father of black baseball’ some of the best players spoke highly of him. Honus Wagner, for example, was described as the greatest pitcher. His desire went beyond just playing as he founded the Chicago Giant Americans. Rube also pioneered the start of the Negro National League, which provided stiff competition to the MLB.
After playing, Rube went into management and worked with Louisville White Sox, Leland Giants and his Chicago Giant Americans team. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1981.
We have come to the end of our list of black baseball players in the Hall of Fame. They might have played a long time ago and you probably didn’t see them in real-time but it is important to learn about the history of those who came before us.
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